‘Driven by War into Politics!’ Kathleen Elizabeth Royds (Innes) (1883-1967) , written by Maki Kimura
Kathleen Elizabeth Royds, better known by her married name Kathleen Elizabeth Innes, was one of the British delegates to the 1919 Congress in Zurich. In contrast to other British delegates who were members of the Women’s International League (WIL), the British Section of the Women International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), she had been employed as the office secretary of the WIL in spring 1919. Shortly after she joined the WIL office, the Executive Committee decided that she, together with Mary Sheepshanks and Kathleen Courtney, should be asked to act as interpreters from French and German to English, during the Congress as she had excellent language skills from having studied both French and German. Therefore, it seems that she attended the Zurich Congress in the capacity of interpreter, though the Congress report does not provide any specific information regarding interpreters.
Kathleen was born in Reading, Berkshire, on 15th January 1883 to an affluent middle-class professional family, the fifth child of William Alexander Slater, a physician and Sarah Anne (née) Spicer. In addition to older sisters and brothers, Annie Maye Mary, Emily Margery, William Massy and George Freeman, Kathleen also had a younger sister Dorothy Gage, who died in 1905 at the age of 19 from an illness. In 1895 the family moved to the village of St. Mary Bourne, near Andover in Hampshire when William took over a local general practice. Kathleen was very fond of this village, and she went back to live there with her husband George Alexander Innes in 1938 and remained there until her death in 1967.
Kathleen, an avid reader, was well educated and studied History, Languages (French, German and Latin) and Logic and Psychology, passed the Cambridge Higher Local Examinations and received a Teacher’s Diploma in Theory and Practice from Cambridge University during the early 1900s. She also obtained a BA in Modern Languages (English and German) from the University of London in 1912. Before the First World War broke out, Kathleen had taught subjects including English, Literature and History at schools and to adults in evening classes in London.
It is not clear whether Kathleen was involved in any direct political action undertaken by the women’s suffrage movements, but she was still significantly influenced by suffragist ideas and was a strong believer in equal rights for women. Women’s rights as well as her views on democracy, internationalism and pacificism seem to have developed through her engagement with wide-ranging literature and the study of history, which were clearly reflected in her own teaching. However, it was her experience at the start of the First World War that changed the course of her life, and she became more involved in politics and peace activism. At the time the war was declared, she was on holiday in Berlin and had to make a stressful 10 day journey back to London via Hamburg then Denmark and Scotland. Indeed, in her obituary which appeared in the Quaker newsletter, The Friend (May 12, 1967), it was revealed that in completing a biographic file sheet in 1933, she wrote ‘Hobby-Literature. Driven by war into Politics!’, therefore, political activism was seen by her as more of a necessity and duty arising from the situation of the time than a positive choice.
Concerned with the patriotic institutional endorsement of the war, by the following summer of 1915, she had resigned her teaching position to join the Scottish Women’s Hospital (SWH) as a relief worker, initially as an orderly, though she ended up offering substantial clerical assistance to run the organisation and its service focused on helping refugees from Serbia, first in Salonika and then in Corsica. It was in Salonika that Kathleen met her husband to be, George Alexander Innes, the administrator of the London-based Serbia Relief Fund (SRF) and a Quaker, who had originally trained as an engineer. In autumn 1916, she left the SWH and joined the SRF, but then went back to the SWH working part-time for both organisations until December 1917. Upon coming back to the UK, rather than resuming her teaching career, she continued her political work, first obtaining a job at the Union for Democratic Control in Birmingham, and then taking up an office secretary post with the WIL in 1919.
One of her greatest contributions to the WIL’s activities during her time as the office secretary was the organisation of the 1921 international summer school in Salzburg. Her experience during the First World War led her to believe in the importance of international educational exchanges with pacifist messages. After competent planning of the first national WIL summer school which took place in Buckinghamshire in 1920, the WILPF International Executive asked the British Section to organise an international summer school. Thanks to the excellent organisational skills of Kathleen, this two-week long summer school, themed ‘Education for Internationalism’, which became the first WILPF International Summer School, was a great success attended by 300 women and men representing 21 countries, including China, India, Japan and Mexico.